Sunday 26 August 2007

Fifth Symphony

Over the past few months I've happened upon Prokofiev 5 a couple of times. Once the week the Royal Festival Hall opened with the LPO and once for a morning on an orchestral course I was on the other week. In the British tradition of playing things on minimal rehearsal, we did 2.5 hours practice and then finished the morning playing it through. We did that with Brahms 4, Beethoven 3, RVW 2 and Sibelius 4, so this was not for the faint hearted. The afternoons were lighter - Stravinsky Piano Concerti and the like. But I digress.

Anyway, P5 is on Radio 3 now direct from the Royal Albert Hall in London, tonight's Henry Wood Promenade Concert as they say and I think I'm going to have to get a recording of it. I went on this course with a colleague from work and he was raving about it whilst I was being a bit sniffy. I think he was definitely right and I was suffering from sitting at the back hearing a totally unbalanced account of the symphony as is the lot of the horn section. That was also true of the LPO performance as we sat behind the horns and percussion. Great sound but the woodwind were rendered inaudible. Also, although being so close to the clash cymblas that you can be one with them counting bars rest and see the things vibrating is exciting, they are loud even from behind. Sitting in front of them as I frequently do is worthy of a separate post and can cause tinnitus ( I kid you not.)

Wow it's just finished and I must say the BBC Symphony Orchestra have gone way up in my mind. Prokofiev 5, now on that list of works I should know but don't enough. An amazing fizz to the end of a symphony. Sounds like a clockwork mechanism. Our performance had Peter Donoghue (= quite famous pianist,) so just as we were flagging he came in and seemed to be ramping up the tempo at the end for extra excitement. It's got lyrical melodies too and magnificant orchestration. Better than Shostakovich in that respect at least.

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